Over the summer, I ended up watching Rocky Balboa several times as it seemed to be on Showtime every time I turned on my TV. I found it quite entertaining and a nice way to bring the franchise full circle. That being said, I was unborn or quite young when the previous five Rocky films came out and so this made me want to revisit them with fresh eyes.
Lucky for me there were marathons on Bravo, where I caught I-III, and AMC, where I watched III again as well as IV and V. Since Rocky Balboa is relatively recent, and presumably well-discussed, I will limit my comments to the first five films.
I forgot that Adrian is actually an interesting character in this film in contrast to the seeming one note "Rocky is retired" role she plays in the subsequent films. The romance that plays a central role in the series is convincingly established.
Some seemed to be disappointed by the loss Rocky suffers at the end, but that misses the point. Rocky only needs to prove to himself, like in Rocky Balboa, that he is/was as good as the best and any failures in the past were not due to a lack of ability. Rocky stands toe-to-toe with the best and is triumphant against his own self-doubt.
Having proven his boxing ability to himself, Rocky is ready to move on, but no one else is interested in Rocky moving on. Very strong for a second film, I have a hard picking my favorite between I and II. I would say that Rocky I has the edge, since II seems like the obvious next step for the series.
Eye of the Tiger. Retread of Rocky vs. Self-Doubt as touched on in Rocky I. Entertaining film, but possibly the most generic. I find III more interesting than IV, but not as interesting as V.
Extremely 80's, over the top. Rocky punches through the Iron Curtain.
Popular opinion seems to regard this as the worst Rocky film, but I don't find this to be the case. The way in which Rocky loses his money is a bit weak and probably just to justify the sequel, but it allows for the exploration of some worthwhile themes. Clearly, he wouldn't be the first or last entertainer to go from rags to riches, to rags again. Also, the introduction of the Duke and Tommy Gunn, allow the film to touch on the greed and ruthlessness of entertainment industry that seems mostly ignored by the previous installments.
While there were cringe-inducing moments involving Sage Stallone trying to act tough, the father-son dynamic was not without value. I relate as the son of a father from a tough background and the idea that you don't belong where your father does. He does not seem to feel trapped between worlds, as I sometimes do, but this may be a side effect of his father's celebrity.
This film is a bit of a downer and so it makes sense that Stallone would want to end the series on a high note with Rocky Balboa.